What Would You Do?

A year and a half ago, Cordula Volkening’s doctors gave her a grim diagnosis: brain cancer. Still, having been told that she might have a year to live, she decided to embark on a career as a painter.

Ms. Volkening, a 52-year-old mother of two from Brooklyn, said she thinks of painting as a coping mechanism. Years ago, as an art student in Germany — before immigrating to Brooklyn and starting her own interior construction design business — she considered painting her passion. Now she finds that painting keeps her in the moment, instead of worrying about the future, or pining for her healthier past.

“I wanted to make the most of my remaining time; it’s keeping me sane,” said Ms. Volkening, whose speech has been impaired by her condition. “When I paint, it’s happy, it’s independent.”

She is painting not only for her state of mind, but also for the future of her two children, who live with Ms. Volkening’s former husband: her son, Skye, 16, an aspiring actor, and her daughter, Eden, 13. She finished 30 paintings in her first three months and went on to have three art shows in Brooklyn at which she sold thousands of dollars’ worth of her work, to leave to her children.

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